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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Timing of B.C. mine spill likely preserved returning sockeye: fisheries official

VANCOUVER - The fisheries department says the timing of the Mount Polley tailings pond breach in central B.C. likely reduced any potential negative impact on returning salmon stocks.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans area director Jennifer Nener says the sockeye returning to the Fraser River during the annual migration now underway aren't expected to reach the area affected by the spill for a couple more weeks.

Department staff will monitor salmon as they enter the Quesnel water system, but Nener says she expects that the millions of cubic metres of water and silt that washed into the water system when the dam broke last week will have had time to settle.

She says that water-quality test results from the province showing samples are within drinking water guidelines are encouraging when it comes to the health of the fish.

Nener couldn't say when the next opening will be for commercial gillnetters, but noted a decision regarding the departments' arrival of an estimated 22 million fish will likely be made Friday by the Fraser River Panel.

She says more than 50 per cent of the salmon return is not expected for another couple weeks, and that its size is likely to be the most bountiful since 2010 because these fish are the offspring of that run.

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